When Bindi Irwin and Chandler Powell swapped vows in March, the couple did so without guests in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic. Only Irwin’s brother was there to walk her down the aisle, her mother to help her prepare for the ceremony and an officiant to lead the “I dos" at the family’s Australia Zoo.
Still, there was one person whose absence stood out more than any other. The father of the bride, Steve Irwin, couldn’t be there because he died 14 years earlier.
But thanks to one talented fan, he’s in the wedding-party portrait all the same.
Bindi recently shared a shot of the family gathered around the image created by digital artist Debb Oliver, in which the late “Crocodile Hunter” can be seen standing in the center of the group — right in between his daughter and his widow, Terri Irwin.
“Thank you (Debb) for creating this spectacular piece,” the newlywed wrote alongside the photo. She also included a quote from poet Thomas Campbell that read, “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”
As for the artist, who used her Instagram account to reach out to the family and offer them the piece, she first showcased the digital painting on her account back in July.
“I’ve been working on this slowly since @bindisueirwin and @chandlerpowell got married,” Oliver wrote at the time. “I couldn’t stop thinking about how Steve would be so proud of them. So I wanted to draw all the Irwins together, including Sui. Steve’s (dog and) best friend. I LOVE this family so much. And I’d love for them to see this. I promise I won’t ask every time, but I’d REALLY appreciate if you could help me get this to them.”
Her followers came through, and it wasn’t long before the Irwins were in touch.
“Words can’t express how much your beautiful art piece means to our family,” Bindi wrote in a thank-you card Oliver shared just days later. “We can’t wait to see it in real life.”
The card also featured a “crikey!” and a “thank you” from the entire crew of Australia Zoo, and it was all accompanied by zoo gifts and autographs. And soon enough, Oliver had the chance to give her work to the family in person — in a socially distanced hand-off.
The Irwin family was obviously grateful to get a chance to see the famous patriarch standing alongside them at the nuptials — especially since they believe he was there on the big day.
As Bindi’s brother Robert Irwin told Australia’s “The Today Show” in April, “It was a day that you definitely wish that Dad was there for it, but I think he was definitely there with us in spirit.”
Terri agreed, noting in the same interview, “I think we all felt that Steve was watching over us.”